As I read the rest of her insights, I realized this is where it all starts. We don’t have a mental health care system. If we had some semblance of a system the other four insights would go without saying. We’d see mental health patients as human beings, we would listen to them about their lived experiences, we’d have support systems for families, and we’d understand that despite all the effort and love put in, some people would still lose the battle, just like we do with cancer and every other illness.
I know that I’ve talked before about survivors not coming forward for years, and how this is especially true for men, who typically don’t disclose to anyone until their 50s. In a recent interview with People, John Stamos briefly talks about his own experience with child abuse, and I want you to pay close attention to the reasons he didn’t tell anyone until now:
It might not seem like much, but the more we learn about depression, the more we might be able to do for more people. That’s why the article linked above gives me some hope. We need more information from research, from professionals, and from those with lived experience if we are going to make a dent in treating depression. Lives are at stake.
For many survivors, their definition of healed automatically becomes a goal that cannot ever be reached. We should quit trying to “be the person I was before the abuse” because it’s impossible. By setting that as our pass/fail goal we sentence ourselves to a lifetime of falling short, instead of a lifetime of celebrating the gap between where were started and where we are today. We also never find a better goal that is more realistic.
Please, take a good look at how you are defining healed. More importantly, don’t lose sight of the amount of healing and growth that you’ve already done. Be proud of it. This is your life, it’s not a pass/fail exam. It’s so much bigger than that.
There are certain books that I’ve seen discussed in the survivor community so often that it can be easy to overlook them when talking about recommendations for someone starting out on their healing journey. Bessel van der Kolk’s book about healing from trauma, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in Healing Trauma, falls into that category.